In the opening round of the Rizin 2017 Bantamweight Grand Prix, Kyoji Horiguchi looked every bit the focal point that Rizin Fighting Federation wanted him to be.
Sunday inside Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan, the former Ultimate Fighting Championship flyweight title contender ran roughshod over popular Japanese “Cinderella Man” Hideo Tokoro, needing just 109 seconds to knock his target out in the main event of Rizin's Grand Prix kick-off show. The 26-year-old Horiguchi quickly landed a right cross in a punch exchange to drop Tokoro, then followed up with ground-and-pound to force referee Yoshinori Umeki into action just 1:49 into the contest.
With his victory, Horiguchi advances to the quarterfinals of Rizin's bantamweight tournament. The remaining Round of 16 bouts will be held on July 30, back at Saitama Super Arena.
Joining Horiguchi in the quarterfinal round will be Japan's Takafumi Otsuka and Germany's Khalid Taha. Otsuka used his wrestling to ground UFC veteran Anthony Birchak and earn a split decision, despite being knocked down and viciously soccer kicked at points throughout the contest. Taha, in the dying moments of the opening frame, sprawled on a Keita Ishibashi shot and landed a devastating knee to the head, following up with coffin nail punches to end the bout at 4:52 of the first round.
Elsewhere on the bill, grappling all-star Gabi Garcia was forced to wait for her fifth pro MMA win. The 31-year-old Garcia's contest with amateur boxing standout Oksana Gagloeva ended in a mere 16 seconds after she inadvertently poked her Russian opponent in the eye and Gagloeva couldn't continue.
In heavyweight action, Greco-Roman wrestling world champion Amir Aliakbari continued his rebound from his New Year's Eve loss to “Cro Cop” Mirko Filipovic. After dropping opponent Tyler King with a head kick, Aliakbari unloaded with uppercuts to force a stoppage at just 1:39 into the opening round, improving to 7-1 as a pro.
“King” Reina Miura wasn't thrilling in her openweight bout with pro wrestler “Lei'd Tapa” Seini Draughn, but got the job done nonetheless. Miura overcame awkward standing exchanges to buy takedown after takedown, dominating Draughn on the floor. At the bout's expiration, Miura was working on a belly-down armbar that might've ended the fight, if not for the final bell.
At lightweight, perennial standout Satoru Kitaoka succumbed to the punches of Krazy Bee's Yusuke Yachi at 4:46 of the second round. Yachi thwarted Kitaoka's shots and grappling attempts throughout the contest, raking the star grappler with repeated left crosses on the feet until referee Minoru Toyonaga stopped the bout, with Kitaoka still on his feet.
Though it was a mixed rules contest, 18-year-old wunderkind Tenshin Nasukawa showed why he is one to watch, destroying fellow kickfighter Kizaemon Saiga in just 96 seconds. While the round two was slated to be under MMA rules, Nasukawa didn't need the second stanza, landing a brutal left cross that destroyed Saiga early in the first round.
Freestyle wrestling world champion Miyu Yamamoto earned her first pro MMA win at 42 years old, grounding American atomweight Cassie Robb en route to a 15-minute unanimous decision. The older sister of “Kid” Norifumi Yamamoto put her world-class wrestling on display, repeatedly taking down Robb and hammerfisting her liberally to win her judges' verdict.
Shinju Nozawa-Auclair, daughter of notable Japanese comedian Naoko Nozawa, made short work of American Sheena Brandenburg in her professional debut. Nozawa found full mount in a heartbeat and smashed into Brandenburg with elbows before transitioning into a fight-ending armbar in just 1:50. Brandenburg entered the bout with a 3-17 record as an amateur.
In the card's opening contest, Sweden's Karl Albrektsson choked out Lithuania's Teodoras Aukstuolis, dominating his opponent on the floor before cinching up a fight-ending side choke at 8:01 of the first frame.